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Crassula littlewoodii is sometimes considered to be a form of Crassula ausensis, but seems rather less common in cultivation than Crassula ausensis subsp. ausensis, subsp. giesii, or subsp. titanopsis. It is a little larger growing than the typical forms of these seen in collections, and so may be regarded as not quite so choice. While it does not have the raised dots of C. ausensis subsp. titanopsis, and the leaves are not quite so grey or hairy as those of C. ausensis subsp. giesii, in compensation, it is also not as touchy to grow – in fact, I would rate it as easy.

 0220 Fig 1 C littlewoodii

Fig. 1 Crassula littlewoodii

It does not get too large, which helps if you have limited space – the plant in Fig.1 is in a 3 inch pot. As can be seen, it is very free-flowering. Unlike many other crassulas, which can smell distinctly unpleasant when in flower, this plant has little odour.

 0220 Fig 2 Flowers

Fig. 2 Crassula littlewoodii inflorescence

Like many smaller Crassulas, it repays a more careful look. Each inflorescence (see Fig. 2) has up to about 25 small white five-sided flowers, so the plant in Fig.1 probably has over 500 flowers open at once!

 0220 Fig 3 Leaves

Fig. 3 Crassula littlewoodii leaves

The flower stems are red, making a nice contrast with the white flowers and green leaves. The leaves are covered in dense white hairs, giving them a rather velvety texture, (see Fig. 3). These hairs probably provide a little shading from the sun, but are perhaps more important in helping the plant to trap dew on cold desert nights.

After flowering, the flower stalks wither and can fairly readily be removed. The remaining stem then branches, so a plant can become quite a clump in just a few years.

 0220 Fig 4

Fig. 4 Crassula littlewoodii ISI1461

It is very easy to propagate this plant just by removing a side branch, waiting a day or two, and potting it up. This can be done at most times of year except the hottest part of the summer. It is best not to use a flowering branch, when the plant will be putting its effort into growing flowers rather than roots.

This species was described in 1967; it was originally found by Roy Littlewood (of the Karoo Botanic Garden) in Keetmanshoop, Namibia. He sent seeds to the Huntington Botanic Gardens, who distributed it as ISI1461 in 1984. A plant acquired under that number is shown in Fig. 4; it appears slightly different to the plant in the first three Figs., with somewhat bigger and less pointed leaves, and more branching inflorescences. Various intermediates may occur between C. littlewoodii and typical C. ausensis, explaining why many authorities treat the former as just a form of the latter.

Ralph Martin


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